Bowens doesn’t resent other stars for playing up gay culture’s more bawdy reputation.
“The LGBTQ community comes in all different shapes and sizes,” Bowens said. “There is this stereotype that we're super sexual. And that's OK, but there's all different kinds of people and personalities … I think [all the openly LGBTQ wrestlers] are competitive with each other, but we also have love for each other. Social media can get very rough sometimes, especially if you dig deep enough. And you need as much support as you can.”
With a devoted following, you’d think big wrestling brands would be chasing Bowens down. Bowens isn’t so sure if systematic discrimination against LGBTQ people within the industry plays a factor.
“My schedule isn't as packed as it used to be or want it to be,” Bowens said. ”I think maybe it's because of my sexuality. But then at the same time, I look at Jake Atlas, and he's flying all over the country. So I can't pinpoint it to be that exactly. I don't have an answer. It can be confusing and frustrating at times, but if I sat and dwelled on that, I wouldn't have a fun or successful career.”
As far as the future goes, Bowens has his sights set on even bigger platforms. He wants to be on AEW or WWE as soon as possible.
“I'm not one of these guys who pretends they want to be an independent wrestler forever,” he says. “I have a lot to offer any TV company. You need me to go out and have a Dave Meltzer five-star match, I can do that. You need me to go and do media, I've been doing that for the last four or five years.”
“I can do anything you ask me to do,” Bowens said.
Bowens feels that without the pressure of keeping secrets about himself, he’s been able to unlock his hidden potential, his newest form.
“Now, finally, I have a character, the 5-Tool Player, that I can sink my teeth into,” he said. “When I first started, I didn't have a character. I was just myself: a clean-cut babyface — a really good wrestler, Anthony Bowens. And 5-Tool Player is me, too. He’s everything I do in the ring and outside of the ring. Even though he's a babyface for now, he could be a heel too. Nobody is doing what I'm doing—and I'm not getting the recognition for it.”
Bowens has now worked with over 40 companies in his career and has received at least two tryouts from WWE. What opponent he faces for his Battle Club Championship remains to be seen, but gothic femme fatale Harlow O’Hara is already nipping at his heels.
If the wrestling industry bigwigs want to be left in the dust, they can repeat the mistakes of the past and continue to push talent that appeals only to fans they already have in their grasp. Or they could find new audiences by courting people from outside their niche.
Bowens is prepared for bigger things. And that’s part of what makes the current situation so aggravating: he’s yet another example of LGBTQ people needing be so much better than their straight competitors to receive even a fraction of the attention. At a time when wrestling brands struggle with creating stars that appeal to non-wrestling audiences, Bowens is a perfect solution. What he brings to the table in terms of a pre-established following and utilizable skillset is already guaranteed, and his potential heights have no limits if he’s given the proper platform.
Although the industry is changing its attitude with regard to LGBTQ people, it’s hard to think of other reasons why Bowens isn’t receiving the attention he deserves. And it’s so clear that once he’s given bigger roles to play, he’ll succeed—and inspire other people to do the same.